June 3, 2023

Analyzing the Candidates – Question Four

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Analyzing the Candidates for Maine Governor – Question 4

We have now covered the first three questions (one, two and three). Four candidates for Maine governor were asked to participate in an online interview with me. They were the incumbent democrat Governor John Baldacci, republican Chandler Woodcock, independent Barbara Merrill and green party Patricia LaMarche. I have not received answers to the six questions from LaMarche. If I do I will of course post them for you.

In the meantime it is on to question number four. As before, I will post the question exactly as it was given to the four candidates. That will be followed by each of the candidates response to that question and then my analysis and commentary.

Question Four:

Maine spends millions of dollars each year stocking many of our waters around the state. Do you believe this is a worthwhile expense? Would you reduce, increase or leave the same, the amount of stocking that is done?

Governor Baldacci’s response:Maine Governor John Baldacci

Answer 4. I believe the cost of stocking of fish in those of our waters where fish stocks are not naturally sustainable is a worthwhile expenditure. I felt so strongly that we need to do more that I proposed and passed a $10 million bond issue for fish hatcheries. Those funds enabled us to build a state-of-the-art fish hatchery at Emden that is now producing bigger, healthier, and more fish that will be stocked in Maine waters. The greater availability of more and bigger fish will assist us in efforts to attract new fishermen and women to Maine in order to share in the expanded fishing opportunities. This is part of my effort to revitalize our natural resource-based economy and restore its importance in the total state economy. I feel it will allow more people who love Maine, and want to live close to the sporting activities they enjoy, to have good jobs where they want to live.

Chandler Woodcock’s response:Woodcock.jpg

4.I served on the Hatchery Committee of the legislature and we increased the stocking of Brook trout in particular for those bodies of water which are not sustainable. I want to have fewer Splake and more Landlocked Salmon and have stated such many times.

Barbara Merrill’s response:Merrill.jpg

4. I do think it is worthwhile and overtime we need to find ways to do much more. Our current investment pays us back many times and if we increase it we can bring many more people to all parts of our state. These fishing men and women will contribute to our economy with the supplies they buy and the money they spend on lodging and guides. But that is just a part of our return on investment. I have met people who moved to Maine, bringing jobs with them, people who moved here to enjoy our fishing. Our environment is a magnet that can draw thousands of jobs to Maine if we understand what we’ve got and exploit it wisely.

My Analysis:

As any incumbent would do, Baldacci brings to the front of this discussion his efforts to put together a bond referendum for the people of Maine to vote on that raised $10 million for fish hatcheries. This was approved and Maine now has, as Baldacci put it, a “state of the art” fish hatchery in Emden, Maine. This is something he is obviously proud of.

Both Merrill and Baldacci point out that the need for sustained or increased levels of stocking is based on economic reasons through sales of goods and jobs provided. They believe that stocking our waters with more and bigger fish will lure more fishermen to the state and in return will bolster the economy.

Woodcock served on the Hatchery Committee. It is difficult to read from his response but it appears that he is in agreement with the increased stocking of brook trout. He states that he wants to reduce the number of splake and increase landlocked salmon.

Well, unfortunately our fishing world is headed in the wrong direction in my opinion. Being driven by the almighty dollar, we are creating a fishery that will ultimately destroy itself.

We know from the statements above that both Baldacci and Merrill favor stocking and Merrill comes right out and says she would like more. I agree with Merrill when she speaks of how “Our environment is a magnet that can draw thousands of jobs to Maine if we understand what we’ve got and exploit it wisely”.

The key part of her statement is “exploit wisely”. We haven’t done that. Maine is not different from other states in this. All across America, stocking has become the mainstay. Billions and billions of dollars are spent annually to stock waters for fishermen. In my opinion and I can’t say that this is based on science, increasing the stocking will ultimately destroy what sustainable natural fisheries there are remaining. I also know that I will catch the dickens for taking this position as I am undoubtedly in the minority.

Can we turn this around? I don’t know if it is possible or I should say feasible. There is now too much at risk should we opt to return to a natural fish population. I think biologically it could be done in time but economically it would destroy too many businesses.

There are areas around the United States where it has shown that fishermen will pay big money to fish native species. A recent study showed that Maine holds the overwhelming majority of the country’s native brook trout. It also has a great landlocked salmon fishery that anglers love to try for. These need to be exploited and cared for better before money is spent on dumping farmed fish in with the native.

I think the jury is still out on whether cross-breeding of farmed fish with native fish is destroying the gene pool and thus creating a biologically weaker species of brook trout that cannot survive through the tough times. I believe it is, as do numerous scientists worldwide.

When splake were introduced into the Maine waters, biologists said it would have no effect on the native trout. Now they are finding that not to be true. How many times have we heard that sort of retraction? It was believed that splake were not capable of reproducing with other trout.

Our scientific abilities, curiosity, and money to burn have allowed scientists to create crossbred species for the enjoyment of fishermen who are willing to pay. That I guess is the bottom line.

I don’t believe that we are doing a very good job managing our fisheries but not for the reasons you might think. I think we have hard working and intelligent biologists working through the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I just think they are directed by the bottom line dollar and not for what is the best thing to do scientifically. Politics and science are like oil and water.

Maine can have an incredible native fish population that many people around the world would pay big money to fish but I’m afraid it may be too late. My gut feeling is that Maine will go the way most everybody else has and continue dumping millions and millions of dollars into creating farmed fishing for the masses.

I while back I wrote a piece about how this sort of activity would not be tolerated if it were deer we were talking about. What would it be like if the demands were such that every October just prior to the opening of deer season, deer stocking trucks traveled the countryside dumping deer around certain patches of woods so the license-paying hunters could shoot a deer. Really, what is the difference?

We are only kidding ourselves if we think the actions we are taking are going to be good in the long run. Time and again, science has shown us that crossbreeding farmed animals with wild animals produces a weaker species with fewer capabilities of sustaining itself but we don’t seem to care.

What I would like to see is some changes made in how we allow fishermen to take smelts. Smelts are extremely instrumental in the health and sustainability of the trout and salmon populations. We should work harder at maintaining our native fish populations, even if it means more catch and release or closed waters.

Without coming off sounding like a doomsdayist or something, I think we have gone beyond a complete return to natural fisheries. Soon there will be no such thing as a complete native species of anything. Anglers want to catch fish and spend money to do it. Maine needs the money to keep their economy going and they aren’t going to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve what I believe would be a long range goal of having some of the best fishing in the United States.

Baldacci seems to want to take the role of throwing more tax dollars at it. Woodcock does seem to want to accomplish a couple of things that I would agree with – reduction of splake and more landlocked salmon. How he wants to achieve that is anyone’s guess at this juncture. Merrill indicates that more is better and putting more into our stocking program will yield a higher rate of return on our investment.

The one thing that I liked about what Merrill had to say was that we need to “understand what we’ve got and exploit it wisely”. If only more people did understand what Maine has that would be a big step. Exploiting it takes on too many faces. Exploiting what Maine has to offer now with its fishing and hunting isn’t being achieved to its fullest because Maine people are either not interested in outside money or don’t know what the paying fisherman wants or both.

Some time ago, George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, wrote an article about how Maine is not exploiting its natural resouces for economic growth. You may find that article interesting reading. It is entitled, “Outdoor Economy is Being Lost“.

I want to give the nod to Chandler Woodcock because he at least seems to understand that splake aren’t working and landlocked salmon are important. I wish he had expounded more to help us further understand his ideas on how he would accomplish this.

I don’t have a clear-cut winner in this debate. It is really close between Chandler Woodcock and Barbara Merrill only because I don’t know what’s on Woodcock’s mind. I want Merrill to reel in the “more is better” approach but I like her choice of wise exploitation.

Today, I will give a slight advantage to Woodcock pending what I can find out about how he would reduce splake and improve the salmon fishery.

Comments are now open. Go ahead blast me!

Tom Remington